Naturalistic Developmental Behavioral Interventions: Empirically Validated Treatments for Autism Spectrum Disorder

We describe the development of Naturalistic Developmental Behavioral Interventions, their theoretical bases, empirical support, requisite characteristics, common features, and suggest future research needs

Laura Schreibman


Scholarcy highlights

  • Earlier autism diagnosis, the importance of early intervention, and development of specific interventions for young children have contributed to the emergence of similar, empirically supported, autism interventions that represent the merging of applied behavioral and developmental sciences. ‘‘Naturalistic Developmental Behavioral Interventions’’ are implemented in natural settings, involve shared control between child and therapist, utilize natural contingencies, and use a variety of behavioral strategies to teach developmentally appropriate and prerequisite skills
  • While there is a substantial research base supporting the effectiveness of behavioral interventions across the lifespan of autism spectrum disorders, empirical data on the efficacy of interventions that meet the needs of toddlers with ASD have begun to emerge only recently
  • Related findings showed that children with autism learned more rapidly when there was a natural, rather than an arbitrary, relationship between a response and the reward for using that response; such research contributed to development of two widely known naturalistic behavioral interventions, Incidental Teaching and pivotal response training (PRT;
  • Since the development of the first empirically-validated and highly-structured applied behavior analysis interventions that changed the lives of children with autism, continued research has expanded these efforts by moving towards more naturalistic interventions that integrate principles identified by developmental science with ABA principles
  • Whereas behavioral and developmental research and treatment in ASD initially proceeded separately, the increasing emphasis and evidence on autism intervention during the early childhood period have brought these fields together. These NDBIs represent the integration of ABA and developmental science and they allow us to achieve more substantial and accelerated child learning and behavior change, but they are well suited to the infant and toddler autism population being served
  • They focus on developmentally based learning targets and important foundational social learning skills like joint attention and imitation known to facilitate acquisition of language and other higher-level skills

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